There is growing evidence to show that optimising your gut health has numerous health benefits, such as aiding weight loss, improving heart health and building strong immunity. Prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods are discussed below due to their promising characteristics. Prebiotics are the fertiliser for your gut whilst probiotics are the soldiers in combat. Fermented foods allow these gut bacteria to flourish. Read on to find out more.

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre which feed “good” bacteria in the gut. These consequently produce nutrients (such as butyrate, acetate and propionate) in the large bowel, thereby supporting a healthier digestive system. Examples include garlic, onion, asparagus, banana, oats, apples and flaxseeds.

Probiotics are live microorganisms which,when consumed in adequate amounts, produce certain health benefits. Each probiotic is unique and has an individualised purpose. In addition, specific types or strains help to treat certain conditions, which include reducing antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, managing IBS symptoms (e.g. bloating) and digesting fibre and other nutrients. Nowadays, probiotics come in various forms such as probiotic yoghurt/kefir, supplements and powders.

Fermented foods are foods or beverages which are developed by controlled microbial growth. That is, fermentation occurs when microorganisms (e.g. yeast and bacteria) break down food components (e.g.sugars) into other products (e.g. organic acids, gases and alcohol). Hence,this is what allows fermented foods to have their desired taste, aroma, texture and appearance. The health benefits of fermented products include improved ability to digest lactose, weight management, improved bone health and blood pressure, and a reduced risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Examples include kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, miso, yoghurt and pickles. It is important to note that not all fermented foods contain live microbes.

Myth Busters

1.     Are all probiotics the same?

No. Since probiotic stains are very different, confusion may arise when the probiotic product does not list the strain used. For example, a product may be labelled Lactobacillus rhamnosus, but whether it is Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG or the very different Lactobacillus rhamnosus, GR-1, is not known, and so neither is the potential health benefit.


2.     Are probiotics with more bacteria the most effective?

Not necessarily. It is important to note that a greater number of CFUs (colony forming units) does not equal a superior effect. Rather, a probiotic product should be chosen according to the clinical desired effect. For example, Bifidobacterium BB-12 has been associated with increasing the frequency of bowel motions in constipated adults at a dose of 1 billion CFU/day as with 10 billion CFU/day.


3.     Can probiotic products be used in conjunction with antibiotics?

Yes. Probiotics can be beneficial for the gut microbiome when negatively affected by antibiotic use. For example, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG has been shown to reduce the frequency of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. To get the best benefit, when combining antibiotics and supplements, it is recommended that probiotics are taken a few hours after the antibiotics.


Further Reading:

·       International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics ISAPP:

·       Canadian Digestive Health Foundation:

·       TheProbiotics Institute: